Art is an investment! It’s a prevailing theory that is generally undisputed. But what, exactly, does it mean to invest in art? Are we talking a financial investment? An aesthetic one? To help us answer this question, we’ve turned to Paul Morin, an internationally renowned artist whose career has taken him around the world, and who now calls our region of Headwaters home. At the Paul Morin Gallery in Alton, art is definitely an investment… but that is not necessarily as straightforward a statement as one may think.
Of course, the type of investment which most people think about when it comes to art is financial. We call to mind movies like The Thomas Crown Affair, and think of works like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. Art can be a high-priced, high stakes world in which appreciation values can range in the millions. Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, for example, is the highest-selling piece of art in the world to date, and went for $450.3 million at auction.
Most of us, though, don’t have a couple of million bucks kicking around in the back of our sock drawer to play at this level. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean we can’t still invest in art. Investment art, Paul explains, begins at around the $5,000 mark (and he would consider his own work to be in that range). It is at this level of investment that insurance companies will begin to consider a client’s art purchases as an investment portfolio. So, if you are in a financial position to invest, it is likely a more attainable goal than you might think.
The reality is that, when it comes to local, emerging and contemporary artists, investing in art is a far more personal venture. Ultimately, Paul explains, art is an emotional investment. It is often not the painting itself that draw people, but an experience or memory which the painting evokes. He says, “With my paintings, I always put the viewer right inside the image—a forest, for instance. They’re not looking down on it from a hilltop, they’re right amongst the trees. A person that might buy my snowscapes, for example, may have spent a lot of time in the winter in the forest, and my painting might spark those pleasant feelings. When they see that snowscape of mine, it puts them right back in the forest with their own memories.”
Paul Morin began his career in art as a commercial illustrator, working for advertising agencies and book publishers. Today, he works primarily in acrylic paintings—usually abstract culturescapes or landscapes. He also does multimedia installations which often include his own photography, videography and music scores. The Paul Morin Gallery itself is located in a historic church, built in 1877. The building has been a labour of love for Paul. Over its century-and-a-half of various uses (fire hall, town hall, antique store, etc.), the building had fallen derelict. Like a true artist, he has done most of the restorations himself, with the help of friends and YouTube how-to videos. “Over a three-year period, I spent about 16 thousand hours doing these renovations,” he says. “I kept my previous gallery space at the Alton Mill Arts Centre during that time, so I was trying to run a business and also keep this building progressing. Come March, it will have been two years that I’ve been open full-time here.”
Since being in his standalone gallery, Paul has found that his reputation has followed him. “People will come to me telling me that they love the way I do water, or the way I do snowscapes, and they’ll ask me to recommend something based on certain specifications of their house or whatnot,” he says. “I work with them, and they commission a painting that I will execute for them, sharing all the stages along the way. Clients really love that.” In the last five years, Paul has found that more and more of his clients are moving towards commissioning a painting and being involved in the process, rather than just buying one they like.
Of course, art means something different to everyone, and it always comes down to a matter of taste. But ultimately, no matter what one’s personal tastes, art is important because it reflects life experience back on society. It gives us a window into our relationship with the world around us. “In the case of my nature paintings, I hope they give back the potential beauty in any natural environment,” Paul says. “Even if it’s a tiny little pond that people normally walk by and don’t look twice at. But sometimes, on a certain morning or in a certain light, a frog jumps and you see concentric circles spreading out, and it is spiritual.”
“It’s like, you know, stopping to smell the roses,” he adds. “Art gives us the opportunity to stop for a brief second, to observe, to perhaps see something through somebody else’s eyes, or to be moved to see the same thing we always see with a much more profound depth. That’s what makes it worth investing in.”
If you’re considering venturing into the world of investment art, or if you’re simply an art lover and want to view some of Paul’s works for yourself, visit the Paul Morin Gallery at 19741 Main Street in Alton. Visit online at www.paulmorinstudios.com.
Story by Katherine Ryalen